I’m sure you’re familiar with the phrase “there’s no such thing as a stupid question.” I’ve got to be honest, I’m not certain that I agree. Now to be fair, I do believe that all questions serve a purpose. People don’t ask a question unless there is something that they need or want to know. But sometimes you look at questions, and you just have to wonder.
In 1995, the web service Yahoo launched a web site called “Yahoo Answers.” There, people could ask questions about…well…anything. The the Yahoo system, or members of the community would provide answers. While it was a good concept, “Yahoo Answers” became widely ridiculed, not because of the quality of the answers, but because of the quality of the questions. Here are a few examples of real, actual questions asked on Yahoo Answers:
- Are there birds in Canada?
- What happens if you paint your teeth white with nail polish? Is that bad for you?
- Do you think NASA invented thunderstorms to cover up the sound of space battles?
- Can you actually lose weight by rubbing your stomach?
- And my favorite…although I almost didn’t share it here because of the subject matter: “I swallowed an ice cube whole and I haven’t “passed” it yet. I’m really scared. Is it stuck?”
Is there no such thing as a bad question? I guess I’ll leave that up to you.
However, I can say for certain that there are good questions. And I’ve got to tell you, I love good questions. I love the conversations they generate. I love the learning that happens. I love that a good question will often open up lots more questions. In the last few weeks, I’ve met with people who had great questions. Questions like:
- How do I know if I’m hearing God’s voice, or if it’s just my own thoughts?
- Why is God letting Australia burn?
- If we know what’s right, why is it so hard for us to do it?
These are great questions, that have led to wonderful conversations and ultimately, deeper relationships. I love good questions.
Our entire Gospel reading today is built around a great question. And it’s one that I believe can draw us into a deeper relationship with God.
Jesus walks up to John the Baptist and two of John’s disciples. John immediately gets very excited. He says “Look! Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I was talking about!” Two of John’s disciples, those who had been following him and learning from him, immediately leave John, and go to follow Jesus instead.
They apparently didn’t explain this to Jesus, they just started following him around, which, to be honest, had to feel just a bit awkward…maybe even just a touch creepy. Now if suddenly somebody just started following me around, I’d turn and say “can I help you?” Or “What are you doing?” But Jesus…Jesus instead turns to them and asks a really good question. Jesus asks: “What are you looking for?”
Do you know how I said that sometimes a really good question opens up other questions? This is one of those moments. Because these two disciples don’t really answer Jesus’ question. Instead, they ask a question. They ask, “Where are you staying?” But they didn’t mean like, “where are you sleeping tonight…are you at the Super 8 or the Holiday Inn?” The Greek word they use here for “staying” is the word “meno,” which means to abide, or to dwell, or to live within.
They were asking Jesus “Where do you dwell? Where is your home? In what, do you abide?”
I can envision this moment with Jesus and the two disciples. Jesus asks “What are you looking for? They reply “Where do you “meno?” Where do you dwell? And Jesus smiles and gets maybe just a bit of a twinkle in his eye, and he says, “Come and see.” Actually, what Jesus says probably best translates as “If you come, and I want you to, you will see!”
Instead of answering the question, Jesus gives an invitation: “I want you to come, and you will see.” It is clear, it is non-threatening, and it is all about a relationship. Jesus is inviting them, encouraging them, to come and discover, but to do it through developing a relationship with him.
And this is a very different way of doing business…of forming faith. If those same two disciples had walked up to any other Rabbi in the time, and had said “where do you “meno,” Where do you dwell? The Rabbi would have said “well, I dwell in the house of the Lord, the Holy One, the Righteous one, the creator of the world and of the law we follow…the one who calls us to live righteous lives by following the law and then rewards us with the righteousness that we have earned. That’s where I dwell.”
But the Rabbi Jesus, he just simply says “I want you to come and see.” Because Jesus knows that when these two disciples enter into that relationship, and they actually “come and see,” it will open up lots of other really, really good questions; and it will deepen their relationship with him. They will come to understand him. It is a beautifully simple and clear answer.
Jesus’ interaction with these two disciples reminds us that sometimes we overthink our faith. We don’t like to share our faith because it can feel so personal, or because we don’t feel like we have “all the answers.” Or because we don’t want to “push” our faith on others. I totally get that.
But what Jesus is showing us here is that really, it’s simple. It’s not about pushing our faith on someone, or about being “smart enough,” or “educated enough” to share our faith.
It’s simply about asking questions, and it simply about inviting.
Now, let me be clear. We aren’t inviting them to receive Jesus, or to accept Jesus’ love, or anything like that. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit, and that’s an invitation that God has already made. No, we are inviting them to come and see…to engage…to enter into a faithful life. To see what God has already been doing within them.
Years ago, when I was in my first call, both my senior pastor, Peter, and I had become friends with this little boy in our congregation named Ben. He was probably 5. Every Sunday, and every Wednesday, he would visit us in our office, and tell us about what he was learning in school, and what he had been doing for fun. Ben was a great kid!
One day, we both got a phone call from his Mom, who seemed a little embarrassed to call us. She said “Ben’s birthday is coming up, and he’s having a little party with his friends, and he really wants to invite you two.
Why not? So, on Ben’s birthday, we ducked out from work and went to their home. His Mom smiled at us and said “Ben and his friends are in his playroom.” His playroom was the crawl space under the stairway. His dad had sheet rocked it for him and put down carpet. So the ceiling of Ben’s playroom was about 3 feet high. Peter, by the way, is 6’, 6” tall. I’m only a little over 6’ tall. But, down on our hands and knees we went, and we crawled in and joined the party.
And in there, sitting cross legged on the carpet, we met Ben’s friends. And we saw his toys. And we ate cake. And we saw his pictures and his superhero posters. We got to know Ben’s life, and we got to know Ben. Ben invited us into his life.
This is how invitation works. Come and see. And Jesus, in this text, is inviting his disciples (that’s us, by the way,) into his life, into his ministry, into his heart.
Jesus is asking us: “What are you looking for?” Because we all know that in some way, we are all looking for something, right? What is it for you?
- Maybe you feel alone, and you are looking for friendship
- Maybe you feel guilt, and you are looking for forgiveness
- Maybe you have energy and you are looking for an outlet, a way to serve…a way to care
- Maybe you’re bored and you need a way to feel useful
- Maybe you’re hyper-busy, and you just need some rest
- Maybe you know that you need something, but you’re not even sure what it is
Jesus’ answer to us today is an invitation: He says, “I want you to come, and you will see.”
Come. Come and see. Come and see what God gives. Come and see the ways that God is at work. Come and taste the bread, and the wine.
And then we do like Jesus did. When we are talking to people at work…or on the bleachers at the basketball game, or at the coffee shop, and we hear people ask their questions, and wonder about life, all we have to do is the same thing that Jesus did. We ask questions. And we discover in our good questions, what they are looking for; what they want. And we don’t have to overthink it. We simply invite: “Come and see.”
I know…inviting people can be a little intimidating. But here’s the thing I want you to remember. It is not just you, or me who is offering this invitation. It is God in Christ, working through you to invite others into a deep relationship that brings life. And, you can make this invitation in confidence when you remember that Jesus first invited you into that same life. Jesus asks you what you most deeply need and invites you to come and see.
This is the Gospel. This is the Good News. And today it is found in a simple, good question, and a simple, great answer.
So once again, I will ask and answer: What are you looking for? Because Jesus’ answer is powerful and profound, and in it you, and all we encounter, receive the Good News and the promise of life, love and grace. “Come and see.”
Thanks be to God!